Vehicle Battery, Alternator, And Starter Repair

Image of mechanics repairing a car battery

Why Won’t My Car Start?

The most common reason vehicles fail to start is a dead battery. Other reasons include a bad starter or alternator. The battery is what the vehicle uses to supply the whole car with electrical power and electrical parts. The alternator charges the battery while the engine is running, but the vehicle will not start or have functioning electrical components if the battery is not charged enough.

Common Reasons Vehicle Batteries Are Dead

  • Old Battery- As batteries age, they fail to hold a charge (battery lifetime: 3-4 years)
  • Faulty Alternator- A damaged alternator will fail to charge the battery
  • Parasitic Drain- Components in vehicles continuing to run after the engine is turned off
  • Damaged Battery Cables- Faulty connects preventing the battery from charging
  • Extreme Temperatures- High/low Chicago temperatures will degrade the life of a car battery
  • Bad Charging- Electrical damage preventing the vehicle battery from charging
  • Human Error- Leaving the headlights on or not completely closing a door

How Long Do Car Batteries Last?

A car battery can usually last between three and five years. Even under ideal driving conditions, pushing a battery for longer than five years could cause your battery to fail without warning. For that reason, a replacement schedule of five years is recommended by most manufacturers.

When should a car battery be replaced?

There is no clear answer to how long a car battery can last, but batteries seem to last 2-5 years for the average drivers. A car battery life varies depending on three main factors: time, heat, and vibration.

How Does Time Affect A Car Battery?

Over time, car batteries mature and have a limited lifetime. Batteries gradually deteriorate in optimal working conditions until they can no longer supply enough power to start an engine. Patterns of car use often lead to battery aging. Cars driven mainly on short trips can not allow the battery to recharge entirely, and naturally self-discharge the batteries in vehicles parked for extended periods.

How Can Temaptures And Vibration Affect A Vehicle’s Battery Life?

Photo of a new vehicle battery

Heat uses chemical reaction batteries to produce electricity, but it also increases the batteries’ degradation rate. A battery can last five or more years in cooler northern climates, but about three years is more common in hot southern locations. Batteries often exist in harsh under the hood conditions where temperatures can easily reach 200 degrees Fahrenheit in hot Chicago weather.

Vibration causes internal battery components to break down physically. Special hold-down hardware secures batteries to mitigate the effects of vibration and prevent them from moving around.

How Is A Car Battery Tested?

Mechanics use two methods to test the charge/lifespan of a battery:

  • Load Tester: This test applies a load to the battery while the tester is testing the battery voltage. During the test, if the voltage drops below 9.6 volts, the battery is inadequate and should be replaced.
  • Electronic Tester: To assess the battery’s cells’ condition, this test sends a frequency wave through the battery.

How To Test A Battery If Vehicle Won’t Start?

Just because a vehicle won’t start does not mean the battery is to blame. To see if the battery is the culprit, you have two options. The first is to purchase a batter tester. This is the cost-efficient option and the tester can be purchased at most auto supplies stores.

The other option is to have your vehicle towed to a Chicago auto repair shop. This is more expensive but will allow you to quickly understand what is wrong with your vehicle (defects the battery tester can’t reval).

How Much Does A Car Battery Cost?

A standard automobile battery can cost $50 to $120, although some specialist batteries can cost $90 to $200 or more. Having a mechanic perform the install will add to the cost. There are more than 40 different batteries on the market, and many factors (brand and type) influence the price.

How Long Does Battery Replacement Services Take?

Most battery replacements can be performed in under 15 minutes. Driving to the auto body shop typically takes longer than performing the service.

What Size Battery Will Fit In My Vehicle?

Your car battery must fit in its battery tray snugly and securely. Depending on the manufacturer, a car’s battery tray may differ in size, but most are designed to accommodate specific group sizes.

Your car’s battery group size can be found in the battery section of the owner’s manual. If you no longer have access to the owner’s manual, a Chicago auto repair shop will be able to determine the correct sized battery for your vehicle.

What Does The Alternator Do?

The alternator is a major component required in your vehicle to provide electrical power. With an alternating current, the alternator produces electric energy from mechanical energy (used to charge the battery). With the use of a serpentine belt, the alternator is most frequently located bolted near the front of the engine, by the crankshaft. To help in generating electricity, the alternator itself comprises smaller components.

How Much Does A Alternator Repair Cost?

Picture of a auto alternator

Alternator prices vary because of the various brands, sizes, and amps required by different vehicles. If you have a high powered audio system, you’ll probably need a more costly alternator that puts out more amperage for your vehicle’s electrical needs. In general, for a quality alternator, expect $ 130 to $ 250 (parts only). The lower end options are professionally remanufactured alternators, while the high-end price range usually is for new generators for modern vehicles running higher amps.

What Are The Symptoms Of A Failing Alternator? 

  • Battery Light On Dashboard
  • Burning Rubber Smell
  • Frequent Stalling
  • Dead Battery
  • Overbright/Dim Headlights

What Is A Car Starter?

A car starter is an electric motor that cranks the engine to start a vehicle’s engine. The starting mechanism is composed of the motor itself and the solenoid attached. It also drives forward the starter gear, allowing it to mesh with the engine’s flywheel’s gear teeth. The solenoid is what takes power from the battery and delivers it to the starter.

How Much Does It Cost To Repair A Car Starter?

The exact cost of a starter replacement will vary. If you can detect a problem with the starter early on by taking your car to a repair service yourself, you may be able to save yourself some money. You might well need to pay for a tow truck to come and tow your car to be fixed if your starter fails suddenly. The cost of the job itself will vary, but it will generally cost between $400 and $500.

If a new ring gear is required during the repair, it’s one of the most significant variables regarding the total cost of replacing the starter.

Starters can be purchased for as little as $50 on their own but could set you back as much as $100. On top of this, there’ll be a few hundred bucks to pay for labor expenses. The cost of the ring gear will add another $200 to the price. In the worst cases, there might be several components that need repair in and around the starter.

Who Do Car Starters Break?

A car starter contains many moving and rotating pieces—things such as electric carbon brushes, bearings, or an overrunning clutch, that wear out over time.

Electrical contact points between the starter and the solenoid may end up burned or pitted. If this happens, the engine will not start even if the battery, cables, and cable terminals work.

How To Get A Vehicle Battery, Alternator Or Starter Repaired?

If you have a feeling that one of these parts are failing, the vehicle should be inspected as soon as possible. If left unrepaired, damaged car parts will affect other parts and damage them as well. Risking further damage and having your vehicle stranded on a Chicago street is not ideal.

The city of Chicago has plenty of auto body shops that can diagnose any issues affecting your vehicle. If your vehicle won’t start, contact a shop such as Chicago Autohaus and have them tow the vehicle. It’s better to have a professional take a look rather than worry about the damage that could be an easy fix.